Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shear Shock

This was the view out the windows of the Kennedy Center's Theatre Lab for much of this week, but the mood inside was anything but gloomy. An enthusiastic group of actors was being led through their paces with verve and just a bit of urgency. The Second Company of Shear Madness was being assembled and rehearsed, under what must be considered complicated circumstances. But Shear has been doing this for almost 20 years, so somebody knows what they are doing.

The actors all have varying degrees of experience with the Madness, and were in fact rehearsed semi-separately due to the requirements of the ongoing production, which played 9 performances this week.

Our cast includes:

One undisputed veteran of the show, playing the sleazy antiques dealer. Mark fits the role like a glove. He must have played the part a thousand times or more, so we only saw him twice this week. He doesn't need the rehearsal.

One semi-vet, playing the lead detective on the case. Matt has been with Shear off and on for many years, playing three of the four male roles many, many times. He has surely worked his way up from the young cop to the role of Rosetti, who runs the investigation (and the audience participatory parts of the show).

Two actors new to the production, playing the young detective and the society grande dame. Matthew and Catie both rehearsed last month, and joined the evening company for two weeks to get their feet wet with 8 (or 9) shows a week. As they have both been performing in the evenings, we saw them only twice this week.

One brand new actress, playing the gum-smacking Barbara. Tiernan went through the challenging process of rehearsing a week all by herself, with director Bobby and stage manager Robert playing all the other roles. It's guerrilla theatre, necessitating absorption of the entire show in 6 days. I know exactly what she went through, as my first engagement with the Madness years ago was rehearsed in the same way, by myself, with no other cast members available to play with.

Oh, and we have one actor who should have remembered much more than he does, from his two previous stints with the show. That would be me. I joined Tiernan and Matt in rehearsal this week, and was surprised at how little of the previous experiences had stuck with me. But director Bobby pressed on, and as we moved through the show, moment by moment, beat by beat, and bit by bit, the thing has begun to take shape. We won't know for sure until Monday night's opening performance, but from where I'm sitting, this looks to be a comically talented group of very smart actors who know what they are about.

The fact that all six of us will be together to run the show only once, on Monday afternoon, gives only minor trepidation. This show runs like a Swiss clock when it's done right, and all of us are determined that on Monday, it will be right.